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General aviation airport grants defended in OhioGeneral aviation airport grants defended in Ohio

AOPA members responding to a call to action have helped ward off a threat to state funding to upgrade general aviation airports in Ohio.

Cirrus Aircraft had this SR-22 (minus engine) lined up and waiting to greet visitors to the Ohio Statehouse on Sept. 18, 2018, when AOPA joined other general aviation backers in celebrating the power of the airplane. Kyle Lewis photo.

As of July 18, the bill establishing the state’s operating budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 awaited signing by Gov. Mike DeWine—but without an amendment that would have changed the rules for dispensing state grant funds for airports.

The amendment, removed in a House-Senate conference committee after both bodies passed their budget bills, would have expanded the definition of airports eligible for state grants, opening a path for the largest commercial and cargo-service airports in Ohio to claim allocations from funds previously awarded to the state’s 97 GA airports.

Unlike GA airports, however, commercial airports have separate funding streams such as passenger facility fees, vehicle parking fees, large leaseholds on airport property, concession and vendor fees, and the ability to generate revenue via other sources, said Kyle Lewis, AOPA’s Great Lakes Region manager.

 “In 2018, for example, John Glenn International Airport in Columbus reported over $30 million in revenue related to passenger airline aeronautical use to the FAA,” he said. “By allowing commercial service airports the ability to tap into the state grant funding system, smaller general aviation airports could be less likely to receive money for their own eligible projects.”

Backers of the amendment included an airport advocacy organization in Ohio that asserted that commercial-service airports “bear the burden of general aviation activities.”

AOPA believes GA airports play a vital role in the state’s aviation system, making it important that a fair state-level grant funding system remain intact, Lewis said in testimony before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee when urging it to rescind the changed the grant eligibility language.

“AOPA also issued a call to action, urging members to call their state senators and oppose the amended language,” he said.

Preserving GA airports’ access to state grant funds has become even more important because of state budget constraints that have constrained access to FAA matching grants, Lewis added. For the past three years, Ohio has awarded only $18 million of the requested $60 million in state funds that help localities fund their matching shares of federal grants issued by the FAA for airport safety and infrastructure upgrades, he said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, State Legislation

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